Uriel Reichman
Haaretz (Opinion)
January 18, 2011 - 1:00am

On November 29, 2011 the UN General Assembly decided by a large majority to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. This scenario, despite American efforts (as of now) to prevent it, is becoming increasingly real.

It is even possible that the vote at the UN will take place earlier, and it is not impossible that it will include elements that are problematic for Israel, such as the return of refugees and decisions regarding Jerusalem and the timetable for implementation.

The decision of the General Assembly will create a new strategic reality. After the international community has its say, the anti-Israel wave will become stronger and there will be legitimacy for sanctions against Israel by organizations and countries. International public opinion is even liable to show understanding for violent acts against us.

The Israeli government, we can assume, will react with partial annexation and military action. Meanwhile the split within Israeli society will grow, so that parallel to the external distress this time there is liable to be an internal rift as well.

This is a realistic scenario. Responsible leadership must prevent it. In his Bar-Ilan speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in effect accepted the principle of dividing the Land of Israel into two states. Implementation of this principle, even in the framework of the 1967 borders, is a complex matter.

Security issues such as Israeli control of airspace, demilitarization and supervision; borders and territorial exchanges; timetables for evacuation (this is a step that will take years); financial assistance to refugees and evacuees; the question of the arrangement in Jerusalem; the Gaza Strip; the nature of the relations between the states in the future, etc., require localized solutions. A sweeping decision by the UN General Assembly is liable to distance us from an agreement and only heighten the conflict.

It is doubtful whether direct negotiations will produce an agreement. The Israeli coalition structure, the weakness of the Palestinian leadership, the complexity of the issue and the shrinking timetable before possible recognition by the UN of a Palestinian state will make it very difficult to achieve an agreement by consensus. At most we will see an exchange of accusations between the parties, whose objective is to support the vote of the General Assembly or to prevent it.

One significant route is still likely to lead to an agreement. Due to political constraints there is a gap between what the sides are capable of offering and receiving and what they would be willing to compromise about. Bridging this gap is possible only through an American initiative, which begins in a trilateral discussion and ends in an American proposal for an agreement.

There is no question that the success of the move is conditional on a profound understanding of Israel's vital and existential interests, along with providing a fair solution to the refugee problem, including assistance with rehabilitation. Backing for the move on the part of the moderate Arab countries and the European leadership is likely to be of great significance.

Israeli rejection of a fair American proposal is liable to accelerate a decision by the UN General Assembly and to exacerbate the internal conflict in Israel. Rejection on the part of the Palestinians will undermine their international support, will apparently hasten the disappearance of Fatah and will lead to unilateral Israeli moves.

The next 100 days will be significant. The challenge is placed at the door of the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab countries, but equally important is wise American navigation. In the coming months the actors will decide whether there will be a positive change in the region or whether we will lapse into violence.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017